The Journal of Lynton Charles, Fiduciary Secretary to the Treasury

Thursday The horror! The horror! It's all out of control and spiralling downwards at a sickening speed. No, not spiralling downwards. It's like you're walking on some sunny hilltop somewhere, whistling and taking in the scenery, and somehow you contrive - by an inch or a millimetre - to miss your footing. You teeter. Then, puzzled, you fall. And you think: "This wasn't a dangerous-looking hill, so I'll stop in a moment." But you don't. You pick up speed, branches and stones come away in your hand. And before you know it, you are tumbling arse over knapsack towards your doom, and your two thoughts are a) it isn't fair, I was only out for a walk, and b) perhaps even now my descent will be stopped by a branch.

Poor M. But we who are still alive must look to the future. Which, for me, does not mean immediate elevation. Girt John Reid, champion swearer, gets Northern Ireland (phew!), Norrie McLaurie goes to Scotland (never much of an option for a Hampshire member like me) and Peter Teezey-Weezey Hain (so ycleped for his bouffant locks) goes to Energy. So I feel OK.

Friday They're after Vaz now. In fact, some wags in Fort Knox have already dubbed him "Keith Waz". Where's the logic here? Sure, he's a mate of the Barracudas, but that's not a hanging offence. Well, it may be in India, but not here. But they smell blood, Diggory Pitts and the boys from the corridor, with their red faces and high blood pressures, blood and awards.

It makes you nervous, because in this mood it could be anybody. Who's to say that one of those insistent lobby kids who took me out to lunch and flattery two party conferences ago won't turn out to have been a bagman for the Barracudas, doing the rounds at exactly the moment that they got a contract for some arms sale or other? The next thing, it's a "confirm or deny" call from some scribbling shark, another from Ali's office, and before you've had time to draw breath The Master is regretfully showing your severed head to the Fleet Street tricoteuses and your career and your marriage are over.

Saturday Everyone but me, it seems, is linked to the Barracuda twins. The Master's been to their parties, the Queen has attended their Diwalis, Hague has enjoyed their balls. They've given dosh to us, the Tories, the Lib Dems and even a couple of thousand to the bloody SNP. Roll on this bloody inquiry before the entire political class of this country implodes.

Sunday M now says he didn't.

Monday The Witchfinder General says he did.

Tuesday M's friend the thriller writer says he may not have done; but whether he did or not makes no difference: he shouldn't have resigned.

In the evening, as I work late over some harmonisation papers in my ill-lit room in Fort Knox, for the first time for many months, the bookcase slides open with a creak, and the white, cadaverous figure of M, a perfectly long grey lock of hair falling over his pale forehead, shuffles into the room and falls into the guest chair. I am shocked by his appearance, his gait and - when it emerges - his cracked voice. "Lynton, oh Lynton," he croaks, "if ever you did your mentor love, avenge me!"

I walk to his side, the better to hear what he has to say. He grabs my arm with his bony hand, and holds it too tight.

"Take the Cabinet Office job, Lynton, and help me to be revenged! On Short, on Straw, on Ali McSqueal, on Brown, on Whelan, on Robinson. Harm not The Master, Lynton, but kill the rest. Swear it!"

I swear on a copy of the autumn statement and, eventually, he leaves. That bloody secret passage gets blocked up tomorrow. It's history.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2001 issue of the New Statesman, Laughing all the way to No 10?